AHN and JHS Stealth Tigers aim for first at F.I.R.S.T.

While most people were using the winter break for resting and relaxation, some AHN and Jesuit High School students’ minds were still in overdrive. The clock is ticking; there isn’t much time to spare before the competition. Venturing to Jesuit High School to collaborate with their male team members, the AHN and JHS Stealth Tigers get ready for the busy robotic build season.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition kicks off the varsity robotics season with the unveiling of the year’s challenge. From that point until the day of the competition, the team must construct a robot to perform specific tasks that fit the year’s theme. January 4th marked the beginning of the season this year with the revelation of Aerial Assist, a challenge that will require much skill and strategy from competing robotics teams worldwide.

The game seems simple: have a robot pick up a ball and throw into an overhead goal or push it within a goal located on the floor. Easy, right? Easier said than done.

JHS Senior Ryan Lowman has been on the team all four years of his high school career and has served as the team’s Junior Varsity Captain in sophomore year, in charge of the electronic sub team in his junior and senior year, and is now president of the entire robotics team. After a long day of building, he assures that the game is not so simple.

“The Aeriel Assist game is similar to a FIRST game played in 2008. We have a giant ‘exercise balls’, as you may call it, that we have to move from one side of the room to the other, over a truss, and into a goal that is about 6 feet off the ground. There is only one ball in play at a time and three robots on each alliance must work together to move that ball across the field to maximize the points.”

JHS Senior Nick Rivera, and historian of the robotics team, foresees another obstacle that the team may have to face on the field, aside from the movement and shooting of the balls.

“We’ll be relying heavily on teamwork…teamwork from the other teams. We have to rely on other people, which can be bad since we don’t know how they are going to work. That and we don’t even know who we’ll be set up with for the majority of these games. Through passing alone, we can earn up to 30 points. If one of our teammate’s robots shut down, it will completely alter the strategy of the game. Similarly, if one teammate makes a defensive robot, which would be completely useless in this game, only two robots will be doing all the work. Also the ball is huge and we have to watch it from a pretty far distance…so we’ll have to see how this is going to work out.”

Besides external obstacles, Gabrielle Madden, an AHN senior (and pit boss and team safety captain since her sophomore year), explains that the team faces some internal challenges to try and resolve.

“Challenges include teaching younger members how to take more charge and come up with the robot design. Also, we have lost two of our three original mentors, so it will be difficult not having their wealth of knowledge.”

Lowman elaborates, “With the loss of our local electrical genius…It’s left our electrical team floundering a little bit.”

For the past few weeks, the team has been gathering outside in the workshop at Jesuit to work on the blueprints, plans, and prototype for the robot.

“As far as shooting goes, we’ve limited it down to a catapult since everything else we’ve tried has desperately failed,” informs Charles Duffy, a Jesuit junior and mechanical lead (monitors the robot’s progression) for the Junior Varsity team in his sophomore year. “And for picking it up we have a roller with two arms that will apply pressure to the ball and suck it in.”

Lowman offers another idea that team has put into effect.

“We’re going to have a combination of an extremely maneuverable drive train a pick up mechanism of sorts, which resembles sort of like a spatula with a claw attachment on the top; picture a spatula that can slip under a burger and then actually hold the burger…or better, picture a crab claw.”

With time of the essence, all robotics members must meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00pm until 7:00pm, Fridays from 4:00pm until 9:00pm, and Saturdays from 10:0oam until 6:00pm. Only taking breaks for snacks, lunch, and dinner, this team puts in whatever energy not devoted to schoolwork into the season. However, they still make time for fun and jokes while sawing and drilling.

“I find myself often during the off-season saying “Geez, I wish I had robotics today.” But other days, the day drags on, and it’s close to 11:00pm and I just wish I could go home!” says Lowman as he helps to close up the workshop, “But I really enjoy working and being here.”

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